Simon Jordan, Robotics & Control Lead, explains how agriculture will benefit from advances in machine vision and AI.

The future of vertical farming: the intelligent ecosystem

New technologies are making huge steps forward, enabling machines to be adaptable and treat plants at an individual level by recognising shapes and texture. From counting apples and estimating yields to identifying weeds in crops, machines are getting smarter.


If we look back, the twentieth century was all about making agricultural machines bigger – but this clearly couldn’t continue for ever. What we really need to be doing is looking after plants and soil at a more individual level: So to do this it means we need to make machines smarter.

Smarter means taking care of plants individually – weeding, spraying and thinning. Or identifying fruit – not just counting them but providing yield and size estimates. But, what’s missing is the ability for machines to discern plant health, or spot weeds in amongst a crop. Artificial Intelligence is about to change this – machines can now be trained to recognise shapes and textures.

The example you’re seeing is using the texture of the leaves to pick them out: as weeds, or, plants which need special treatment. The commercial success of systems like these depend on taking into consideration the whole package – the software, hardware and the business case. We’ve seen these technologies make huge steps forward and we’re already using them to deliver systems that just a few years ago would not have been possible.

AI is making new means of farming possible – not just the machines but the ways in which farming is done. So the question isn’t ‘how will AI affect your business’ – it’s ‘how could AI improve your business?’


Simon Jordan
Senior Sensor Physicist

Working in our sensing systems group, Simon specialises in navigation and communication. Before joining Cambridge Consultants, he spent ten years at Teledyne TSS, working on projects including electromagnetic pipe tracking/survey systems, ship steering systems, marine motion sensors, and the development of high grade inertial navigation systems.